Dysplasia is a common condition in dogs. Some dogs start showing signs as puppies, while others live a fairly normal, pain-free life until they become seniors. Regardless of when your dog starts exhibiting signs, it is truly painful and for some dogs it marks the beginning of the end.
The word “dysplasia” refers to a condition where the joint has developed incorrectly. When a dog has this condition, it usually leads to a remodeling of the joint that then changes in shape and tightness. This can lead to mechanical loads that are excessive in different areas of the joint triggering a cascade of changes in the joint surface covering cartilage, the joint fluid producing joint capsule, and the other structural elements of joint and surrounding tissues. All of these this together is what causes arthritis and pain.
Overtime, a dysplastic joint will get worse, but by definition, hip dysplasia has to be present already in the young, not fully developed pet. Dysplasia is not limited to the hip, other joints are susceptible to dysplasia as well. The most common and understood is the elbow. In fact, there are probably more dogs with elbow dysplasia than hip dysplasia. However, it is harder to recognize the signs of front leg pain, so a lot of dogs never get diagnosed and the condition often goes undetected.
Though other joints (besides the hip and elbows) may get affected with the same principle of incorrect development, they are often not recognized as dysplastic. Nonetheless, the term “dysplastic” can be used for any joint.